San Francisco, which was at the vanguard of the anti-smoking movement more than a decade ago when it became one of the first American cities to bar people from lighting up in the workplace, now is poised to enact much tougher restrictions on smoking in public places.
Smokers no longer would be allowed to puff away near the doors, vents and operable windows of any building - restaurants, shops, offices and housing complexes.
Diners no longer would be able to smoke at outdoor tables. Smoking would be banned from farmers’ markets, lines for movie theaters, concerts and sporting events, near ATMs and cab stands. The smoking ban in and near transit stops would be expanded.
The city already bans smoking in parks and taxicabs.
The goal, said Supervisor Eric Mar, chief sponsor of the legislation that was introduced Tuesday, is “to protect San Francisco’s most vulnerable residents from secondhand smoke.”
If approved, San Francisco would join a long roster of Bay Area communities - among them Belmont, Palo Alto, Hayward, Novato and Berkeley - that have made it more difficult for people to find a legal place to smoke.
The push to curb smoking in places where people congregate accelerated after the surgeon general and the California Air Resources Board issued reports in 2006 that highlighted the health risks associated with exposure to secondhand smoke: lung cancer, heart attacks and asthma among them.
Mar’s measure has the strong backing of San Francisco public health officials, who view smoking bans as a beneficial tool to prevent deadly and chronic diseases.
“The ordinance really is trying to reflect the current research on secondhand smoke,” said Alyonik Hrushow, who runs the Department of Public Health’s Tobacco Free Project.
The restrictions would not go as far as those in some cities, most notably Richmond, which include smoke-free housing laws, but they’re a step in that direction, said Serena Chen, the American Lung Association’s Bay Area director of policy and tobacco programs.
The San Francisco proposal would prohibit smoking in courtyards, yards, hallways, elevators, lobbies, stairwells, laundry rooms and other common areas of any residential property with two or more units. People who smoke outside would have to stand at least 10 feet away from doors and windows. And anyone who smokes inside their own apartment would be required to keep their doors shut. Single-family homes would not be affected.
The San Francisco Apartment Association, which represents the interests of landlords, has not taken a position, but “supports the concept,” said executive director Janan New.
‘What a drag’
Others were not as supportive.
“What a drag,” said Rick Evans, a pack-a-day smoker, who fully intended the pun. The 23-year-old unemployed software designer recently moved to San Francisco from Florida and has spent many a day at sidewalk tables drinking coffee and smoking while hunting online for work. “I understand not wanting people to smoke inside a restaurant but now outside? That seems extreme.”
Supervisor Chris Daly originally introduced the legislation last year, but it ran into fierce opposition, particularly from businesses. The new proposal addresses some of the biggest concerns.
The powerful Golden Gate Restaurant Association no longer opposes the plan. Kevin Westlye, the group’s executive director, said making smokers stay 15 feet away from the businesses’ doors, windows and vents - instead of 20 feet - is more reasonable.
Westlye said restaurant owners still have concerns that banning smoking at outdoor tables would hurt business, but the prospect of protecting their employees from secondhand smoke won out. “We don’t want to put our staffs at risk,” he said.
The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, however, isn’t ready to endorse the expanded restrictions, said Rob Black, vice president of public policy for the business group. He said nightclub owners have expressed apprehension over the proposal to ban smoking in front of their premises because it would tamp their ability to control crowds.
“You’ll have people wandering all over the neighborhood,” Black said.
California banned smoking in government buildings and schools and restricted smoking in restaurants and bars. Many Bay Area communities have enacted even more stringent guidelines on where people can smoke. Among the strictest:
Unincorporated Alameda County, Albany, Belmont, Berkeley, Contra Costa County, Dublin, Emeryville, Hayward, Healdsburg, Los Gatos, Marin County, Martinez, Newark, Novato, Oakland, Palo Alto, Pleasanton, Richmond, Ross, San Anselmo, San Jose, San Ramon, Santa Rosa, Union City and Windsor.
Albany, Belmont, Dublin, Martinez, Novato, Oakland and Richmond.
Source: American Lung Association